Is Gentrification Progress, or Destruction?

San Francisco HomesMICHEL MARTIN, HOST: I’m Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. If I say I want to talk about gentrification, what comes to mind? Do you think new businesses and services revitalizing tired rundown neighborhoods or do you think higher taxes and snobby people with too much money and too few manners pushing out your grandma? And be honest, is the real picture in your mind whites with money and blacks or Latinos or Asians without bumping up against each other? Well, wherever you see yourself in this story, you probably know there is a story. Filmmaker Spike Lee recently made a splash when he offered this comment at a Black History Month speaking event. Here it is.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

SPIKE LEE: You can’t just come in the neighborhood and start bogarting and say, like you’re mother [bleep] Columbus and kill off the Native Americans. You can’t do that. Or what they do in Brazil, what they did to the indigenous people. You have to come with respect.

MARTIN: Well, New York – where Spike Lee lives – isn’t the only place where tensions have erupted. Washington, D.C., Portland and Philadelphia have also seen these kinds of confrontations as established residents feel like new investors and new homeowners are leaving them out or, in some cases, pushing them out of an improving economic picture. We wanted to talk about this so we’ve called three people who have been thinking about or who have been affected by this issue. Lisa Sturtevan is vice president for research at the National Housing Conference. Also with us, John Murph. He lives in Washington, D.C. He’s a music and arts journalist. And Jacy Webster, who lives in Philadelphia where he owns a Philadelphia Record Exchange. Welcome to you all. Thank you all so much for joining us.

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